Friday, May 27, 2011

On Castles, Haggis, and Stairs

I want to live at the Castle Rock Hostel for the rest of my life. First of all, the hostel is located just minutes away from the famous Castle Edinburgh (which was the main reason Heather and I decided to visit Scotland), but the place itself is just awesome. The website describes it as "Edinburgh’s most central, palatial and amazingly located backpackers hostel" which is a perfect way to describe it. Walking into the building feels like you´re stepping back in time, but some crazy version of it. The old stone walls were adorned with posters promising "Half price All Australian Beers at the Walkabout Bar", or whatever a "Silent Disco Rave Night" is. This hostel is clearly aimed at the traveling youth such as myself and Heather.

The one complaint I have about Castle Rock Hostel is that it's situated at the top of a giant hill. A hill seemingly surrounded by long scary staircases in dark, sketchy alleyways. By the end of our stay in Edinburgh, Heather and I never wanted to see stairs again. It was that bad.

If it weren't for the rafters covering the entrance of the hostel (of course this place was under renovation, construction has followed us all over Europe.), you would have a picture perfect view of Castle Edinburgh. This castle is a work of Scottish art, they way it's seemingly carved into the cliff, the family of rabbits hopping cheerfully in front of it, and of course, the castle itself is just awesome to look at.

Despite the fact that Castle Edinburgh was just minutes away from us, Heather and I elected to wait till the next day to actually see it. Instead we went on our very first free walking tour. We had no idea what to expect from it, we had been on tours before in Europe, all of which were paid for, could a free tour really measure up in quality? The short answer is yes. Our tour guide, a local Scottsman by the name of Jonny, took us on a 3 hour walk through the streets of Edinburgh, telling us stories of trick stairs, murdering people for beer money, the penalty of stealing onions, and the fact that the church ion the town center was the only one in the world where an angle is playing the bagpipes. the tour ended in a small garden behind Castle Edinburgh, Jonny told us one more tale about the Stone of Destiny, and how some drunkenly brave Scottsman stole it back from the English. We gave Jonny a nice tip for being so great (sorry Ross and Trinity Sweater guy, but he is my favorite tour guide so far), and we walked our tired feet back to our warm beds at our awesome hostel for a quick nap before heading out again later to hang out with Heathers friend Anna. We stopped by a chippy on the way home for a quick bite since we couldn't even remember when the last time we ate was.

We met with Anna around 9 o'clock at a Scottish pub a short walk away from our hostel. I had a great time, something I wasn't really expecting seeing as how I was the odd one out at the table, but Anna instantly felt like an old friend. She greeted us with a smile and a hug before walking us into the pub for our dinner. We talked for hours, each taking turns buying rounds of drinks when our pints (or in my case, whiskey glass) ran dry, laughing and joking the whole time about what ever was on our minds. Anna is one of the few people I've met that has watched both "Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus" AND "Pterodactyl", two incredibly bad Sci-Fi original movies. We left about 3 hours later full of burgers, beer, whiskey, and laughter. Heather and I had to once again climb the giant staircases and steep hills to our hostel, but this time it didn't feel as bad.

The next day was the touristy day for us. We visited the church shown to us on our tour, sneaking into the area where the angle was playing bagpipes, and were disappointed when we found out that the "3-D Loch Ness Experience" wasn't free. Castle Edinburgh was beautiful, but like the rest of the city, was nothing but hills and stairs. I swear, locals must have the strongest legs in all of Europe due to the way this city was built. Walking this city is like spending 6 hours on a stairmaster. We visited the National War Museum and a makeshift dungeon in the castle walls.

The next stop of the day was something that Jonny had shown us the day before, the National Museum of Scotland. It's an odd place to say the least. It talks about Scotlands colorful history, the early days, how tartan came to be, and various other things that make Scotland great. The best thing, the thing that made me wanna go, is that they have a stuffed Dolly in the museum, slowly rotating forever in the Children's Hands-On Learning Center. It's actually quite sad, since she's just standing there, rotating forever more, with nothing more than a short description and an interactive poll on whether or not cloning is immoral. Now, the museum itself is the most confusing thing I have ever been in. From the outside it is modeled to look like, I kid you not, a filing cabnet, complete with an open drawer on one side, and giant handles on the other. The inside though, is what makes navigating this place a nightmare. It has 7 levels if you include the 2 outside areas. You can't just take a lift all the way outside, no, that would be too easy. Instead, you have to go to the fifth floor and find a small side passage that'll take you to a special "Sky Terrace" lift. But, just our luck, it was under construction, so we never actually got to go outside and look over the city. There's also this weird split in the museum. It's kinda hard to explain, but I seem to remember looking out a tiny window at one point just to look into another tiny museum window on the other side. There was supposedly a basement floor taking about pre-Scottish history and the first settlers, but after an hour orr so getting lost in the museum, Heather and I couldn't wait to leave.

After lunch we walked up and down the royal mile till our feet hurt, and made our way to the hostel for a quick break. That night we decided to walk a short way to a pub and get the local delicacy, haggis, for dinner. For those of you who don't know what haggis is, it more or less is grains and scraps of meat cooked in a stomach and served with tatties (potatoes) and neeps (turnips). Trust me, it's much more delicious than it sounds.

we made our way up the stairs to our hostel one last time, full to bursting with haggis. We were gonna sleep well tonight.


1 comment:

  1. Beautiful picture of the town of Edinburgh! I love how the upper street looks old and ancient and the lower street is more modern. Really colorful. I want to visit Scotland now... : )